The East Fork Grove is a rare, completely unlogged grove. Nonetheless, as sequoias groves go, it’s pretty unremarkable. The density of sequoias is low; there just aren’t a lot of sequoias, and the sequoias that do grow there are on the small side. There’s a relatively high concentration of sequoias (though still not that many) along the East Fork, at the bottom of the grove, and another concentration of smaller sequoias at the top of the grove . Outside of these concentrations there are only a dozen or so big trees standing near the trail. The grove features views of the expansive, conifer-clad East Fork valley.
The grove can be reached from Three Rivers by a 1-hour drive on the narrow, winding, steeply ascending Mineral King Road, which mostly passes through chaparral. The road gets wider and its surface improves a lot once it enters the national park, but it’s still steep and windy.
Here’s the trailhead location in Google Maps.
Start at the trailhead parking in the Atwell Mill campground. Walk through the campground, which is in a logged section of the Atwell Grove; huge stumps are scattered throughout the campground. It appears, though, that only the area near the campground has been logged. Within just a few hundred yards of the start of the Atwell-Hockett Trail, you pass an old piece of logging equipment and then the stumps end.
The trail descends through typical Sierra mixed-conifer forest with a few sequoias sprinkled in among the other trees. The trail crosses the East Fork on a stout footbridge by a small waterfall. The woods on the other side of the creek are noticably more lush and attractive, and it’s here that the sequoias of the East Fork Grove begin. As the trail climbs away from the creek it passes some medium-to-large sequoias. The sequoias aren’t especially dense, but nonetheless this is one of the denser parts of the grove.
The sequoias mostly dispappear within a quarter-mile or so. However there are still small and mid-sized sequoias scattered here and there along the trail, alone or in pairs, and there’s a little cluster at a creek crossing. The trail passes through an unusual number of areas that appear to have been burned in forest fires; they’re brushy and open and populated with dead trees.
At the very top of the grove, the trail briefly passes through a typical high-elevation grove, very open and with no groundcover. The appearance of this grove is a remarkable contrast to the surrounding forest as well as to the rest of the East Fork Grove. The trees are mostly mid-size; none of them are especially big. Nonetheless this area has the greatest concentration of sequoias along the trail and is the most visually striking and enjoyable part of the grove. The grove is shady and noticably cooler than the surrounding woods.
After the grove ends, the trail continues to ascend, eventually reaching an opening in the woods with a nice view down-valley.
© 2012 David Baselt